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About this Piece

“Gentrification is a generational conversation that has gone by many names. We should not discuss what brings you back to the city without acknowledging why you left.”

Director Patricia McGregor asks you (yes, you): Has gentrification been a protagonist or antagonist in your life? Why and how?  
Place began with Ted Hearne addressing the intersections of privilege and appropriation in his own life and work, weighing a personal sense of place and space in the most immediate family relationships against the inherited and generational.

How is whiteness a learned performance?

Saul Williams calls Place a fiery meditation on gentrification. Ted’s opening libretto was a volley to Saul, who responded to Ted’s words—complicating, expanding, implicating, addressing and redressing Ted’s narrow view, to consider the experiences of others across the street, across the globe and across time.

“You realize your inability to face these things may drive me crazy? Do you realize that it may have already driven you crazy?”

Ted wrote Place to be sung by specific people he grew up singing with in Chicago—Josephine, Isaiah, Sophia—and by individuals he encountered in different musical contexts later in life— Ayanna, Steven, Sol. Music was, at times, its own map that cut through the boundaries of streets he otherwise would not have crossed. The 18 instrumentalists come from different places too—RC, Braylon and Matt play with R&B and hiphop artists, Ron plays jazz gigs almost every night, Taylor specializes in experimental music, and of course the members of LA Phil are immersed in a huge variety of classical and contemporary music—so the adjacency and overlay of their individual relationships to music is another kind of map.

While the piece was drawn from a matrix of specific collaborators, there are no static characters here. The singers are at once themselves and shifting, situational archetypes in an ongoing conversation that dissolves, complicates and refreshes characters through poems set to music.

Saul says: “Place provided one for me to expand upon ideas, feelings, and observations surrounding the connected realities of gentrification. I chose to connect dots, neighborhoods, and worlds through a steady probing of Ted’s original text (Part One) working to pinpoint theoretical  and historical origins while confronting the staggering monopoly of soft-voiced “I”s with eyes and visibility to explore how the positioning of even the well-meaning and self-aware white male tenant in the theatrical imagination places a heavy price on a would be democracy and conditions the proscenium as an occupied space."

Through this process, our focus has shifted to DISplaceMENT. While workshopping the piece at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, we were aware that we were only a couple of blocks from tent cities, and that we were standing on ground that had been home to Tongva people long before. Where had/have those displaced people and their descendants found to make a new home?

Patricia McGregor
Ted Hearne
Saul Williams